Police arrested [opposition leader Tofiq] Yagublu on March 22, three days after President Ilham Aliyev, in his first major speech addressing the Covid-19 pandemic, implied he would use the fight against the virus to crack down on the country’s political opposition.
The authorities wasted no time finding a pretext to jail Yagublu, arresting him on bogus “hooliganism” charges. As governments around the world are urged to decrease the population of people in detention by using alternatives to pretrial custody, thereby reducing the risk of spreading Covid-19, Azerbaijani authorities in Baku have kept Yagublu in Pretrial Facility No. 3, also known as Shuvelan, a facility notorious for severe overcrowding and dirty cells, and for being poorly lit and ventilated. Conditions in Shuvelan are so poor, the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment (CPT) had called for its shuttering three years before the pandemic.
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